Links for July 26th

AI: Thanks, Assholes.

This afternoon I would like to send a special thank you out to Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Meryl Dorey, Age of Autism and anyone else who encourages parents not to vaccinate their children. It’s just so great what you guys are doing. You’re so warm and fuzzy with your adorable plea to “green our vaccine” and your desire to hold our hand while you, “help the children.” All of your worthless advice is based on your oh-so-cute and imagined mommy instinct, bad science, fear mongering, conspiracy theories or apparently just a plain old desire to f*%$ shit up for the rest of us and now all your tireless work is paying off. You have helped to create a whooping cough epidemic the likes of which we have not seen in 50 years! Way to go. Give yourselves a round of applause.

Sunday Sacrilege: Unorthodoxy

I saw something wonderful at a science fiction convention a few weeks ago. At these events, people often put on odd and extravagant costumes, and I saw one rather obese young man who’d made a minimalist choice: he’d come as one of the Spartans from the movie 300, which meant he was standing in the crowd wearing a red speedo and a bright red cape…and nothing else.

Now imagine this same young fellow at an event at your high school. It would have been brutal. I know; when I was in high school, I was a little poindexter, ostracized, laughed at, and treated like a space alien, and I was treated mildly: being even more different, being the fat kid or the gay kid or the homely kid or whatever excluded you from the Jock Clique or the Heathers or whatever ideal the majority of the student body worshipped meant merciless torment and unremitting cruelty.

Sunday Sacrilege: So alone : Pharyngula

Scientists and atheists do something that many believers find repellent: we shatter their perception of their relationship to the universe. And understandably, they don’t like that.

Whooping cough now an epidemic in California

According to a statement just released by the California Department of Public Health, pertussis — whooping cough — is now officially an epidemic in California.

That’s right: an almost completely preventable disease is coming back with a roar in California. There have been well over 900 cases of pertussis in that state this year, over four times as many as this time last year (and 600 more suspected cases are being investigated). If this keeps up, California may see more cases in 2010 than it has in 50 years.

If that doesn’t anger and sicken you enough, then this most assuredly will: there have been five deaths this year from pertussis as well, all babies under three months of age.

Joe Power, non-Psychic non-Detective: A Clarification « The Merseyside Skeptics Society

From time to time in the world of skepticism, something happens which you really don’t see coming – something totally unexpected. Often, these are positive things – like the media interest in our 10:23 Campaign, or the random discovery that comedy-legend Ed Byrne knows who you are. From time to time, they’re somewhat negative things – like discovering childhood-hero Johnny Ball thinks farting spiders are responsible for the high CO2 levels in the world. And then there are the things that are just utterly unpredictable, out of the left-field, and hard to wrap your head around.

On Friday of last week, I got a phone call. From Ormskirk police. The polite and friendly officer assured me there was nothing to worry about, but that he was looking into alleged threats of violence coming from people on Facebook. Specifically, within the group page of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. And aimed at non-psychic non-detective Joe ‘I’ll just pop to your toilet‘ Power.

The Magnetic Therapy Water Wand: A Debunking from History

the Daily Mail offered its readers, “30 ways to relieve hayfever: From pills to nasal prongs, our guide to beating pollen”.

The article is a pretty good example of everything that is wrong with health journalism. Whilst, no doubt, amongst these thirty tips there is some good and reliable advice, it is also so full of unchecked quackery, nonsense and falsehood that it renders the whole article as unreliable and useless. It serves only as an advertisement for the suppliers of the products, pills and potions mentioned.

One product caught my attention, and it faced some stiff competition from the qu chi bands and ear candles. Magnetic Therapy Ltd, a Manchester based company, is selling something called the ‘Magnetic Water Wand’.

Why the Digital Economy Act simply won’t work

With the passage into law of the dread Digital Economy Act comes Ofcom’s guidelines that are the first step toward rules for when and how rightsholders will be able to disconnect entire families from the internet because someone on or near their premises is accused of copyright infringement.

Consumer rights groups and privacy groups – such as the Open Rights Group, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Which, and Consumer Focus – participated in the process, making the Ofcom rules as good as possible (an exercise that, unfortunately, is a little like making the guillotine as comfortable as possible).

But this isn’t the last word in the copyfight – not even close. Because disconnection for downloaders will only serve to alienate entertainment industry customers

Medical advice for head-bangers

The British Medical Journal investigates the health risks from head-banging and recommends protective gear and “adult-oriented rock”

These cuts won’t hurt a bit. Unless you’re young or poor

This is only the appetiser, not even the first course, just the amuse-bouche to whet the appetite. With a hint of lip-smacking relish for the coming cuts, George Osborne and David Laws today sharpened their knives. There were no expressions of regret, not even a crocodile tear or two for the real suffering they were inflicting. That attitude may be their downfall in the year ahead.

What’s £6.2bn? A mere bagatelle, David Cameron kept saying throughout the election. It’s only a hundredth of government spending, so why the fuss?


Viking Skull – Blackened Sunrise

I’ve been listening to all sorts of random stuff on my iPhone and iTunes recently (I love to shuffle – fnarr!) and this track has been growing on me like a fungus: a hard rockin’ fungus.

I’ve not heard of Viking Skull before hearing this. I think the track was on one of those free CDs that come with Metal Hammer and it keeps cropping up when I tee-up my play-lists.

I love the Sabbath-esque riff especially. Great track.

Bookmarks for March 5th through March 10th

  • YouTube vs PRS: whoever wins, it’s bad news for musicians

    You’ve got to hand it to Google: when it threw its toys out of the pram over its dispute with PRS For Music, it immediately won the PR war. On blogs, boards and Twitter the consensus is: hurrah for Google! It’s sticking it to The Man!

    Is it really?

  • One-eyed man creates prosthetic ‘surveillance’ eye

    A one-eyed man has taken advantage of some of the world’s smallest imaging and data transmission technologies to help him create documentaries filmed from the first-person perspective.

  • Outdated music industry deserves no Govt help

    When Napster came along in 1999, one big record company – BMG – wanted to find a way to harness the power of the internet. The other major record companies sued Napster – and eventually, sued BMG, too – starting an unwinnable war with dodgy downloads that continues to this day.

    Now, like General Motors, the record companies are hurting – and like General Motors, they want the government to save them. GM wants cash; the record companies want ISPs to act as their policemen, while the Digital Britain report suggests a broadband tax to create a new organisation to fight piracy and find new and exciting ways for DRM to annoy us.

    Why doesn’t the government tell them to get stuffed?

  • User info stolen from music site

    The music streaming service Spotify has been targeted by hackers.

    The Swedish company says people’s personal details, including e-mail addresses, dates of birth and addresses, were all stolen.

    However, it is thought credit-card details, which were handled by a third party, have remained secure.

  • Digital politics is different

    Online coverage gives events enduring significance, says Bill Thompson

  • Nepal’s ‘confined women’ want change

    In the darkness, a 10-day-old baby boy wails. It is midday, but the infant has not been allowed out of this special room, separate from the rest of the house, since being brought home after birth.

    Only his young mother, Basanti Devi Bhul, can touch him.

    She goes out a little but cannot touch anybody else because until the 11th day after the birth, society considers her to be unclean.

  • The Answer to classic rock’s future

    It is gigging the old-fashioned way, but then there is a retro feel to The Answer’s brand of blues-rock.

    The 1970s influence of bands like Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy is there to hear, but their youthful energy and sound have led some music critics to hail them as “the future of classic rock”.

    That means they are unlikely to ever find themselves on the cover of the NME, although they were inadvertently “discovered” by Radio 1 and 6 Music’s new music champion, Steve Lamacq.

  • The Return of Reefer Madness

    “Alcohol is evil. We know this because it is True. And it’s especially bad for women because, well, women shouldn’t drink. If you run a study to confirm this belief and the facts don’t back you up, the facts are wrong. So tell the public the Truth (alcohol is always evil) and bury the facts; the press won’t be able to tell the difference because they’re (a) lazy (or overworked, take your pick) and (b) statistically innumerate.”

Bookmarks for March 2nd through March 4th

  • Technology designed to ‘attack’ us | Platform – Open University

    In a talk at The Open University on Thursday 26 February, Canadian activist, blogger and science fiction author Cory Doctorow stated that technology needs to stop enslaving us and instead start working for us.

    In his talk, which was hosted by the Centre for Research in Computing and was entitled ‘Freedom and technology: who’s the master?’, he pointed out that everyday objects and services, such as laptops and mobile phones, Oyster cards and ID cards – have been designed to ‘attack us’. In other words, they have been designed to stay open in order to capture data about us, therefore making us vulnerable to attack – rather than working for us and keeping us safe from attack.

  • 7 reasons why Apple should make a netbook

    The economy’s tanking, everybody’s broke and even high-end brands are feeling the pinch. Apple, we’re told, is the BMW of tech – but even BMW is finding it hard to sell its stuff.

    In computing, netbooks are a rare spot of good news in an otherwise bleak market. So should Apple make one?

  • Ten Things You Don’t Know About the Sun

    It’s a vast, mighty, seething cauldron of energy, and even though solar astronomers have studied it for centuries, there’s a lot about the Sun that’s still not understand. And if they don’t get it, then I’m pretty sure that you’re unaware of one or two things about it too. I’m fuzzy on one or two (or a thousand) things about it myself.

    So here’s my list of stuff you may not grok about our nearest star.

  • I hate Jenny McCarthy – Opinions

    Model/actress/“mother-warrior” Jenny McCarthy has spent the past several years doing her level best to convince new parents not to have their children vaccinated. To be fair, evaluating medical information using nothing but Jenny McCarthy’s brain must be a little like running an Olympic wind-sprint while dead, but excuses are meaningless; as I’ll note in a moment, the consequences of her intellectual dishonesty are simply far too high to forgive.

  • Was it a kind of bad dream?

    Art Garfunkel’s Bright Eyes, the biggest UK hit of 1979, entered the singles chart for the first time 30 years ago on Tuesday.

    Entering the lower reaches of the chart initially, the song, written by British composer Mike Batt for animated rabbit fantasy film Watership Down, eventually reached number one on 14 April.

    The song famously features in the darkly psychedelic film after character Hazel escapes death after being shot by a farmer.

  • Muse get classical on fifth album

    Muse’s new studio album could see them move away from their traditional rock sound to create a more “orchestral”, classical offering.

    Frontman Matt Bellamy said: “There’s some really brilliant songs coming out, some of our best material I think.”

    The follow-up to 2006’s Black Holes And Revelations is expected later this year coinciding with an Autumn tour.

  • WordPress Gallery Tutorial

    I’ve seen a lot of people who use WordPress asking how to create a gallery similar to the one on Matt Mullenweg’s website ( using nothing but core WordPress functionality. Fortunately, it’s much easier than it looks and with just a few simple steps you can have a gallery of albums and images up an running in no time

  • ‘I thank the universe for the good stuff’

    Writer and actress Meera Syal has starred in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, and has published two novels, Anita and Me and Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee.

    The actress, who was born near Wolverhampton in 1963, has spoken to BBC News about religion and spirituality.


I’m currently listening to my music collection on shuffle mode and a rather amusing cover of the theme from Cheers just came on. It’s rather good too, as performed by The Wildhearts.

It’s excellent accompaniment to the sound of me shredding old statements. Hell, The Wildhearts are great accompaniment to all sorts of shredding!

Heeding The Call

I don’t know why but I’m starting to find certain Power Metal bands to be rather entertaining. I’ve always kinda liked Manowar – not because of the loincloths or due to some homoerotic fantasism – but because they rock with a big grin on their faces. It’s pure cheese but fabulous all the same – you don’t need to be poe-faced to rock.

Hammerfall fit into the same category. They’re hopelessly unfashionable but they’re so much fun that I can’t help liking them.

Me likey!

The kicking of shins

I’ve got quite an eclectic mix of musical tastes but my most listened-to music often uses that most iconic of instruments – the guitar. I just love those hefty, gritty chords ripped out by some talented axeman.

My collection includes a lot of rock and metal. There’s a real pot pourri of genres – everything from from Jack Johnson to Slayer and everything in-between. If it’s good, it’s good and I don’t care if the band are some mirror-loving megastars or some spotty teens recording folk rock in their Dad’s basement.

I’m always pleased to rediscover old favourites too. I had a Rory Gallagher album on vinyl but since I no-longer have the ability to play those old records I’ve not really listened to his stuff much recently. Luckily for me eMusic had Live at Montreux in their catalogue and I downloaded it. It’s every bit as good as I expected. The guy was an utter genius with the guitar.

If you’ve not heard anything by him before here’s a rendition of Shin Kicker:

He died much too young but still made a huge impression on the blues rock scene. Check out his other stuff if you can – I’ll certainly be watching the sales for some second-hand albums